London Bridge Ensemble

Frank Bridge: Songs and Chamber Music

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This disc dedicated to the exceedingly romantic fin de si├Ęcle music of English composer Frank Bridge has a superbly balanced program. It opens with his Phantasie Piano Quartet from 1910, closes with his Phantasie Piano Trio from 1907, and in between it alternates sets of songs with lighter instrumental works: the Scherzo for cello and piano from 1902 and the Souvenir for violin and piano from 1904. The performances are just as well balanced. The cleverly named London Bridge Ensemble -- pianist Daniel Tong, violinist Benjamin Nabarro, violist Tom Dunn, and cellist Kate Gould -- gives both Phantasies the power, imagination, and sheer passion they need to succeed, and their duets in the Scherzo and Souvenir are equally impressive. Less notable are the songs, not so much for the quality of the music but for the quality of the performances. The songs themselves are as heartfelt and moving as the best English songs of the period, but baritone Ivan Ludlow's otherwise strong voice has a hooded quality in climaxes that makes it less than ideal for these ardent works. Still, Bridge's songs are worth hearing by anyone who likes the composer, and the instrumental pieces are well worth hearing by anyone who likes the period. Dutton's digital sound is essentially translucent: with the speakers correctly positioned, the London Bridge Ensemble will seem to be in the same room as the listener.

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